Sources for this chapter:
Nahjul Balaaghah, Arabic, Explanation, Muhammad Abduh.
Nahjul Balaaghah, English Translation, Mohammed Askari Jafery.
Nahjul Balaaghah, English Translation of certain selections, Farouk Ebeid.
Number of Khutbas and the pages are quoted from: Nahjul Balaaghah; by Dr. Subhi Al-Salih; first+ edition, Beirut, 1967.
SERMONS AND SAYINGS OF ALI
WHAT IS NAHJUL BALAAGHAH? نهــــج البــــلاغه
Nahjul Balaaghah is a highly valued book consisting of the 254 sermons, 48 letters, and 212 sayings of Imam Ali (a.s.) as compiled by Syed al-Radhee.
The sermons and sayings of Imam Ali were so highly valued and revered in the Islamic world that within a few decades of Imam Ali’s death they were taught and read:
as the greatest reference on the philosophy of monotheism,
as the best lectures for character building,
as exalted sources of inspiration,
as persuasive sermons towards piety,
as guiding beacons towards truth and justice,
as marvelous eulogies of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Holy Quran,
as convincing discourses on the spiritual values of Islam,
as awe-inspiring discussions about Allah’s attributes,
as masterpiece of literary works, and
as models of the art of rhetoric.
TIME FRAME OF THE SERMONS:
The majority of Ali’s sayings and speeches were stated during his Khilaafah when in Kufa, but some were before he became Khalifa. We have to understand what Imam Ali was doing with his time. For after the Prophet’s (pbuh) death much of Ali’s time was occupied in putting in writing the Islamic treatise, called Al-Jami’ah, (the encyclopedia) in the following order:
During Abu Bakr’s Khilaafah: Ali wrote the following:
- Holy Quran: Chronological order of the Quran’s revelations.
- Tafseer of the Holy Quran, 3 volumes: called Mus’haf Fatima.
During Omar’s Khilaafah: Ali wrote the following:
- Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh): Voluminous writing, called Saheefa of Ali.
- Fiqh: Al-Ah’kaam and Mu’aamalat, the Halal and Haram.
During Uthman’s Khilaafah: Ali wrote the following:
- History of the Prophets as he learned from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), called: The White Al-Jafr.
- Islamic rules and directives of Wars, called The Red Al-Jafr.
MANNER OF COLLECTING ALI’S SERMONS AND SAYINGS:
- Before Ali’s Khilaafah: Done during his speeches and teaching discussions in Medina.
- During Ali’s Khilaafah: Done often as the Khutba of Salat al-Jumu’ah or on other occasions: By the registrars who put the sermon in writing (it is assumed they were people with the ink-pots).
- Copying the material from one seeker of knowledge to another.
1ST CENTURY: Zaid Al-Juhani, ألجـهـــــني (died in 90 AH) the first to compile the sermons in a book form and it became the subject of studies, quotations and learning.
2ND CENTURY: The compilers were: Abdul Hameed Ibin Yahya إبـن يحـــى (132 AH); Ibn al-Mu’qaffa إبـن المـقــــــفـع (142); and Hisham Ibn Kalbee إبـن الـكلــــبي (146 AH). From then on, century after century, Muslim scholars, theologians, historians, and Muhadditheen were citing these sermons, quoting them, discussing the meanings of the words and phrases for referencing to them whenever they needed an authority on theology, ethics, the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Holy Quran, or simply on literature and rhetoric.
3RD CENTURY: Five famous scholars took up the work of compilation:
- Al‑Jahiz (255 AH).
- Ibn Qu’taiba Al‑Daynoori, (276 AH).
- Ya’qoobi, (278 AH).
- Abu Hanifa Al-Daynoori (280 AH).
- Abul Abbas Almoburd (286 AH).
- Al-Tibari, the famous historian, (310 AH).
- Al-Halabee (320 AH).
- Ibn al-Wareed (321 AH).
- Ibn Abd Rabbahoo (328 AH).
- Kulaini (329 AH) in al-Kaafi.
- Al-Madanee (335 AH).
- Al-Mas’oodi (346 AH) in Murooj al-Dhahab.
- Abul Faraj Isfahani (356 AH)
- Abe Ali Quali (356 AH).
- Sheikh Siddooq (381 AH).
- Sheikh Mufeed (413 AH).
- Syed al-Radhee (420 AH): Compiler of Nahjul Balaaghah
- Al-Toosi (460 AH).
AL-SHAREEF AL-RADHEE, THE COMPILER: الشــــريف الرضــي
LIFE: Al-Radhee was born in Baghdad in 359 AH in a family famous for patronage of art and literature, and interest in history, philosophy and religion. His father was a descendant of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his mother was the great‑granddaughter of Imam Zainul‑Abideen.
Before he was 21, al-Radhee had studied under Sheikh Mufeed شـيخ مفـيــــد , then joined the institute of Tibari,الطــبري Al-Rubaee,الربـيــعي and Al-Khawarizmi,الخـــوارزمي and with them studied the Holy Book, the Traditions, Theology, History of Religions, Philosophy and Literature.
At the age of 21 he was elected in place of his father as Naqeeb نـقــــيـب (master or headmaster) of the family of Benu Talib, a very prestigious position, and was appointed by the state as Amir of pilgrimage to Mecca.
THE COLLECTING: In his early age Al-Radhee came across sayings, sermons and letters of Imam Ali many times but they were found scattered in various books of philosophy, religion, history, biography, literature, commentaries of the Quran, and in the Traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). Because they were not well categorized and were subject to loss (due to unsettled political conditions), Al-Radhee decided to re‑collect them. This desire became a passion with him. For years he toured all over the Arabian peninsula to collect the sermons, sayings, and letters, gathering them into a book. Some biographers claim that Syed Al-Radhee devoted eighteen hours a day to this work for a number of years. It was a labor of love. Though his health was failing he continued the work with unabated intensity.
THE MASTERPIECE: Al-Radhee wrote about 40 books, some of them are great works, consisting of commentaries on the Holy Quran, on religion and philosophy, but his masterpiece was the collection of the sermons, letters and sayings of Imam Ali that he called Nahjul Balaaghah.
As soon as Nahjul Balaaghah was compiled contemporary scholars started commentaries on it, and they continue till today.
PREVIOUS CENTURIES: Nahjul Balaaghah was intensively studied by numerous scholars from all schools of thought in Islam, (the list is too long to put in here) many of them with commentaries of various degrees of detail.
VALUE AND STUDY: After Nahjul Balaaghah was compiled, it became the valued book for studies in Islamic institutions in various parts of the Muslim
Ummah up to the present time. Many commentaries and books were written on its behalf, noteworthy among them is that of Muhammad Abduh, محمد عبدو the famous Egyptian Mufti.
EXCERPTS FROM NAHJUL BALAAGHAH
ABOUT ALLAH’S GREATNESS: عن الله جل جلاله
From Sermon 152, Page 211.
Praise be to Allah who made the creation a sign of His Eternal Presence; the evolution of His creation a manifestation of His Eternity; the similarity of His creation a proof that nothing is similar to Him.
- Senses cannot conceptualize Him, nor can any veil conceal Him; because of the difference between the Maker (Allah) and the Made (Allah’s creatures), the limiter and the limited, the Lord and the subject.
- Allah is One but not in the sense of counting, the Creator but without implying movement or labor, the Hearer but without a hearing organ, the Seer but without opening eyelids. Allah is the Witness without physical presence; the Unseen without being distant, the Manifest without being seen, and He is the Hidden without obscurity.
- Allah is distinct from His creation by His dominance over them. They are distinct from Him by their subjugation to Him and turning to Him (for support).
- To describe Allah is to delineate Him; delineation implies numbering (which is contrary to His Eternity).
- Allah is All‑Knowing; nothing adds to His Knowledge. He is All‑Powerful; nothing detracts from His Power.
ABOUT THE QURAN: عن القـــــرآن
From Sermon 198, Page 315.
Allah has made the Quran a stream that quenches the thirst of the learned, a bloom for the hearts of the Muslim jurists, a guide for the righteous, a remedy that eradicates all ailments, a light that dissipates all darkness, a rope that holds the faithful together, and a citadel that is invincible.
- The Quran is the light that never fades,
- The everlasting lantern, that is ever radiant.
- The Quran is a fathomless sea of knowledge, a guide that never fails to lead to the right path, and a ray that penetrates all darkness.
- The Quran’s arguments never lose relevance, and it is an evidence that is irrefutable.
- The Quran is a remedy that has no side-effects, and is a force whose followers do not lose, and the right whose supporters never fail.
- The Quran is the crux and mainstay of faith. It is the source of all knowledge, and the haven of justice where people seek security and shelter.
- The Quran is the base and form of Islam and the green valleys where the right and the exemplary blossom.
- The Quran is an ocean that no users ever exhaust, and a spring that no drains can ever deplete.
- The Quran is a remarkable source (of knowledge) for the ones wishing to quench their thirst and a landmark that no traveler will miss. It is a sign that is evident to wanderers and an elevation that attracts attention.
The Quran is integrity for those who follow it, security for the hearts of those who embrace it, guidance for those who follow it, , forgiveness for those who seek atonement through it, a proof for those whose arguments are based on it, a witness for those who defend their views in its light, a victory for those who seek proof in its provisions, a vehicle for those who wish to travel in safety, and a savior for those who abide by its rules.
The Quran is a miracle for him who aspires to it and a shield to protect him. It is the fountain of knowledge for those who want to learn; of wisdom for those in need to speak, and it is a source of legislation for the jurists.
ABOUT THE PROPHET (pbuh): عن النـبـي ( ص)
In Sermon 94, Page 139 Ali refers to Allah, the Prophets, then to Muhammad (pbuh), eulogizing him in a poetic manner, referring to the Prophet’s background, his status, and his family.
Imam Ali says:
Allah brought forth Muhammad from a glorious origin, and an honorable seed. It was the honorable lineage from which Allah had brought forth other Prophets; and from which He selected His trustees [family].
Muhammad’s descendants [Ahlul Bayt] are the best descendants, his [Muhammad’s] kinsmen are the cream of kin, and his lineal tree the finest of all. This tree grew in esteem and rose in distinction. It branched out and produced marvelous fruit.
The Prophet (pbuh) is the Imam [Supreme Leader] of all who fear Allah, and the light for all who seek guidance. Muhammad (pbuh) is a lamp with an ever burning flame, a meteor ever shining, and a flint of a bright spark
ALI DESCRIBING HIMSELF: علي عـن نفسـه
You know my close place with the Prophet, peace be upon him, by virtue of kinship and the distinct station he bestowed upon me. As a child, he used to put me in his lap. He would hold me to his chest, and put me to sleep in his bed. I was able to touch him and smell the sweet scent of his body. He would even moisten hard food for me.
The Prophet (pbuh) did not hear a single lie from me nor find any fault with me.
Since the Prophet’s childhood Allah has given him [the Prophet], as companion, the greatest of all angels who would lead him, day and night, along the road of integrity and highest morality.
I used to follow the Prophet (pbuh) like a baby camel with its mother. Everyday he used to show me yet another example of his noble character, and would command me to follow his model.
Every year he used to frequent cave Hiraa for meditation, and I used to see him but nobody else did.
Once there was only one Muslim house: the one that housed the Prophet (pbuh), Khadija, and myself. There I saw the shining light of the revelation and felt the aromatic scent of Prophethood. I heard the sigh of agony of Satan when the Prophet (pbuh) received the revelation. I asked the Prophet what that cry was. He said, “That is Satan’s cry for he despaired from not being worshipped any more. You hear what I hear and see what I see. You are not a prophet, but you are the elite and in the right way”.
ABOUT AHLUL BAYT AND THE COMPANIONS OF THE PROPHET: عن اهل الـبـيـــــت وعن الصـحــــابـه
Ali was admonishing his audience about Ahlul Bayt: Khutba 97, Page 143
Be keen observant of the behavior of your Prophet’s household (Ahlul Bayt)! Emulate their example and do not deviate from it. Never will they lead you astray, nor will they take you back to misguidance. If they stay, stay with them. If they move follow their steps, do not go ahead of them (in thought) for that would lead you astray, nor lag behind them, for that would bring about your ruin.
Ali then said about the Sahaaba (Companions of the Prophet (pbuh):
I have observed the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and none in this audience reaches their measure.
- The Companions would rise in the morning with dusty faces, because they had spent their nights in prayer, alternating between bowing and prostrating. And in humility they would bow before their Lord putting their faces and cheeks to the ground. When the Companions remembered the Day of Resurrection, they were in awe, as if standing on live coal.
- Even the skin of their foreheads was thickened and calloused, the result of long prostration.
- The Companions were such that the mention of the Almighty would bring tears to their eyes, but also send them trembling like trees on a stormy day, not only for fear of Allah’s wrath but also in happy anticipation of His reward.
ABOUT PEOPLE WHOM ALLAH LIKES BEST
O’ people! The person liked best by Allah is the one who seeks Allah’s help to overcome his passions, recognizes the solemnity of life, and safeguards himself from what displeases Allah
- Such a person will have accepted the genuine teaching of Islam and is ready to meet death when it comes; and will have realized the ultimate goal of his existence and is willing to bear every hardship (for life’s duration) in virtue;
- Such a person will have studied the facts and realities of our existence and has taken lessons and warnings from the same, keeping Allah always in mind, trying his best.
- Such a person is one who endeavors toward perfection (which Allah has helped him to attain), and after achieving it, walks in the path of piety and truth.
- Such a person is the one who overcomes immoderate desires, and is serious in seeking the favor of Allah and to receive His blessings.
- Such a person is one who has overcome his mental blindness, given up the company of vicious people, and become a source of guidance toward truth and a means to control vicious activities.
- Such a person is one who has seen the right path of Islam and had adopted it, has recognized the truth and justice and boldly faces difficulties and overcomes obstacles: thus associating himself with Allah and the religion of Islam.
ABOUT GOOD CHARACTER: عن خُـــلـُق الأشـــــخاص
When a man asked Imam Ali for advice, Ali replied admonishingly, “
- Do not yearn for a better world (to come by) without laboring for it; and do not postpone atonement (for you do not know how long you are going to live.”
- Then Imam Ali continued —by describing the worldly people—, “Don’t you see that many people speak the language of the pious yet they lust for material life.
- If one of them is given bounties in this world, he wants more; and if he is deprived he becomes distressed. He is unable to offer thanks for what Allah has given him, but aspires for more of what he already has. He warns against evil and calls for piety, yet he does not practice what he preaches.
- He loves the pious, but does not imitate their action, and dislikes the sinners while he is a sinner himself. He is frightened of death because of his sins, but does not refrain from the sins to ease his fright. If he is sick, he is resentful, and when he recovers he is full of himself. He is proud when in good health and in desperation when he suffers.
- If such a man is in distress he prays out of necessity, and if he is in joy, he is conceited. If in doubt he obeys the reasoning of passions, and when the matter is clear he has no control over them.
- Such a man shows anxiety when others commit a sin smaller than his, and hopes for himself far more than what he deserves for his actions. When he is rich, he is haughty, but if he becomes poor he gets desperate and feeble. He produces little but is quick to give advice.
- When he has a chance to satisfy a passion such a man seizes on the occasion and defers atonement. If he faces a test, he loses his patience.
- Such a man talks of the lessons of others, but does not take a lesson for himself. He exaggerates when he gives a sermon, but is not touched by his own sermon. He is generous in talk and miserly in action. He competes for what is fleeting (worldly life), and is indifferent to what is eternal (Heaven). He finds duties a burden and immediate gain an end.
- Such a man is afraid of death, but does not prepare for it in good time. He considers the sins of others great yet he overlooks his very own sins; the duties he performs he considers significant, and the heavier duties of others as insignificant.
- Such a man is full of criticism for others and of praise for himself.”
ABOUT IMAN: عن الإيـمــــان
In a sermon Imam Ali quoted the Prophet (pbuh) saying:
“Allah has ordained the Faith as purity from plurality of gods, Prayers as safeguard against conceit, Zakat as a means of spreading wealth, Fasting as a test for devotion. Pilgrimage as demonstration of sincerity in religion, and Jihad as defense for Islam.
- Allah has also ordained the Enjoining to good deeds in the interest of the whole, and preventing evil to deter the irresponsive. Allah has prescribed the Tightening of ties with the kin to strengthen the community, Punishment of trespassers to avoid bloodshed and to respect the rights of others, Abstention from drinking alcohol in order not to lose one’s reason.
- Allah has Prohibited theft to secure the integrity of the whole; Prohibited fornication to remove doubts about blood relationship; and Prohibited homosexuality to protect the health and maintain continuity of the community. Allah has ordered Giving witness to ensure justice, and Abstention from lying to propagate truth. Allah has also required that Security be maintained so that fear may be eliminated. Allah promotes Honesty to be the system of the nation and Obedience to be a sign of deference for the Imam of the Ummah (Ahlul Bayt).”
ABOUT TAWHID (ONENESS OF ALLAH): عن الــتوحـيـــــــد
Tawhid is the subject dealing with the Almighty, His creation, and the relationship between the Creator and the Created, though literally speaking Tawhid means Oneness (Unity) of Allah. What follows is a translation of one of the Khutbas Imam Ali had given in regard to this subject:
“By attributing qualifications to Allah a person will have negated Allah’s Oneness.
By comparing anything with Allah a person shows his ignorance about Allah’s reality.
By giving Allah a simile, a person misses the point.
By pointing to Allah or imagining Him, a person will have meant something other than Allah.
By having to depend on something else it means the object is a created recipient, thus becomes deficient by itself.
Allah is the maker and the creator without instruments, the designer without meditation, and the rich without accruing wealth. Time does not accompany Him; instruments do not help Him. Allah preceded all times, and His existence preceded all non‑existence. Allah’s eternity preceded all beginnings.
By Allah’s creation of senses it is known that He needs no senses. By creating contradictions, Allah is known to have no contradictions. By creating comparison, Allah is known to have no comparable.
Allah created the juxtaposition between light and darkness, clarity and obscurity, immobility and mobility, heat and cold. He reconciled their contradictions, delineated their differences, and determined their convergence and divergence.
Allah is not confined by limits, nor contained by numbers. His creation (objects), however, are limited by their nature and are comparable to others. “Since”, “perhaps” and “otherwise” are qualifications that apply to His creation, but do not apply to Allah.
By such created things (objects) reason knows Allah’s existence and by the same objects Allah kept Himself concealed from sight”.
After he finishes off his long oration, Ali poses the question by asking:
- Is theannihilation of the world after its creation more surprising than its initial creation and mounding?